Vote Notes: H.R. 2991, The Susquehanna National Heritage Area Act of 2018
If something is done, do you need to redouble your efforts in doing it again?
I say this because I’ve long been a proponent of land conservation and protecting special parts of the Lowcountry, our state, and nation...but the question that came before me last week as the House voted on H.R. 2991, or the Susquehanna National Heritage Area Act of 2018, was really about a protective land designation that already exists at the state level.
The bill would have designated two entire counties situated on either side of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania as the Susquehanna National Heritage Area.
For those of us who believe in land conservation, that would sound like a most reasonable request. But when you look at the details on this proposal, what you found was that the land was already designated as a state heritage area. It is currently managed by a non-profit entity called the Susquehanna Heritage Corporation and, even if the bill passed, would continue serving as the local coordinating entity.
So, in plain English, the land was already protected, and the proposal was to in essence move the cost of doing so from the state and county level to the federal level.
Given the already significant maintenance backlog that the National Park Service is struggling to manage, I thought this made little sense, and accordingly, I voted against the bill. Though we have the backlog that we do in the park system, we’ll run a near trillion dollar deficit this year, and have the accumulated debt that I rant on regularly, the bill passed 373-9.
The cost of this designation for you and I as taxpayers would not be insignificant given the nearly 1,900 square miles of land on either side of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.
This is important because to get under the hood on the backlog that I alluded to earlier, the National Park Service is currently facing an $11.6 billion dollar maintenance backlog on the public lands and parks already under its supervision. Diverting federal tax dollars away from those projects to promote economic development and tourism in two Pennsylvania counties represents a luxury when this land is already protected at the state level, and accordingly, I voted as I did.